Silvestrov: Requiem for Larissa personal and universal

There has been an unexpected consequence of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It sparked an interest in Ukrainian classical music in the West. And the West is discovering an incredibly rich and unique treasure trove of music.

Valentin Silvestrov is a major force in Ukrainian classical music. He often incorporates Ukrainian folk elements into his music. Though he seldom quotes it. Rather, characteristic melodic turns, rhythms, and harmonies have become parts of Silvestrov’s style.

Silvestrov composed The Requiem for Larissa for his late wife. The work served as therapy. It helped Silvestrov process her sudden and unexpected death in 1996. 

This is a personal work. And yet the emotions it expresses are universal to all who have suffered a similar loss. 

The piece uses the text of the Latin requiem mass. The musical form, though, is completely different. The Requiem has seven movements. But the music flows in a stream of consciousness from one idea to the next. 

Some of those ideas are original, and others are snippets from the couple’s past. There are Mozart pastiches and quotes from earlier Silvestrov works. Deeply personal, and yet truly universal. 

This recording is from a live performance in Munich in June 2011. It’s extraordinary. The Requiem requires five vocal soloists, plus a choir. The orchestra is enhanced by a synthesizer. The settings on this instrument give the ensemble an unearthly sound. Not artificial or electronic, but rather ethereal and elusive.

The Requiem places heavy demands on all the performers. The work lasts almost an hour, and every note needs to be delivered with delicacy and finesse. These performers deliver. The sound is luminous.

This is a masterwork.  

Valentin Silvestrov: Requiem for Larissa
Priska Eser, soprano; Jutta Neumann, alto; Andreas Hirtreiter, tenor; Wolfgang Klose, Michael Mantaj, bass
Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks; Münchner Rundfunkorchester; Andres Mustonen, conductor
BR Klassik 90344

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